An ESPN report that as many as 20 players could face penalties and suspensions for ties to a Miami anti-aging clinic linked to performance-enhancing drugs could be the latest scandal to rock Major League Baseball.
New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica cautioned that while the potential scandal would have an "epic" impact on the sport, the clinic's founder, Anthony Bosch, has yet to talk.
“They have an agreement in place for Tony Bosch to flip, but as of this time they don’t know what he’s going to tell them or who he’s going to tell them about,’’ Lupica told Matt Lauer by phone on TODAY Wednesday. “They could be talking about 100-game suspensions or a thousand-game suspensions or a million-game suspensions. They don’t know what he’s going to say until he does flip, but he hasn’t flipped yet.”
Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees have been tied to the clinic, Biogenesis of America in Miami, in the past by documents, according to an investigation by the Miami New Times.
Bosch has agreed to furnish proof of the players’ connection to the clinic, according to the ESPN report released Tuesday. An attorney for Bosch declined comment Wednesday morning. NBC News has not independently confirmed the ESPN report. "Since we are in the midst of an active investigation, we cannot comment," said Patrick Courtney, senior vice president for public relations for the MLB, in an emailed statement.
"They’ve never had the kingpin flip like this,’’ Lupica said. “All of this labor peace that we have had for so long in baseball, the players’ union is going to fight any sort of suspension against A-Rod or Ryan Braun or anybody else."
"This is just the beginning of the story depending on what Bosch gives them,” Lupica told Lauer.
Rodriguez has previously admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs as a member of the Texas Rangers in the early 2000s after initially denying it.
“I don’t think (Rodriguez) can come back from this,’’ Lupica said. "He lied once about this use of drugs. He came up with a preposterous version that he only used them for those three years in Texas because doing it apparently more than that would’ve been wrong, wrong, wrong. I think the Yankees will find some way to get out of paying a big chunk of the $114 million they still owe this guy.”
The Miami New Times connected Braun, Rodriguez and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera to the clinic in January. Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone in his urine in 2012, but his suspension was overturned on an appeal after questions were raised about how his sample had been handled. Cabrera served a 50-game suspension last season after testing positive for high levels of testosterone while a member of the San Francisco Giants.
“I don’t think they wrote their own names in (Bosch’s) ledgers and in his books,’’ Lupica said. “This all goes back to the original reporting on this story about this — I’m putting air brackets around this — ‘anti-aging clinic’ down in South Florida. These names have been out there. What Major League Baseball is looking to do is confirm what they think those names were in there for which was getting baseball drugs from this guy.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association reacted to the ESPN report with a statement on Wednesday.
"The Players Association has been in regular contact with the Commissioner's Office regarding the Biogenesis investigation,'' MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner said in a statement released. "They are in the process of interviewing players and every player has been or will be represented by an attorney from the Players Association. The Commissioner's Office has assured us that no decisions regarding discipline have been made or will be made until those interviews are completed. It would be unfortunate if anyone prejudged those investigations.
"The Players Association has every interest in both defending the rights of players and in defending the integrity of our joint program. We trust that the Commissioner's Office shares these interests."